Octocrylene – Ally or Threat?

Octocrylene (OCR) is an organic chemical compound commonly used in various skincare and sun protection products since the early 1980s. Its popularity stems from its ability to absorb harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Specifically, its conjugated chemical structure can absorb UVB and short-wave UVA rays, with wavelengths ranging from 280 to 320 nm.

Under European Regulation 1223/2009, OCR is limited to a maximum concentration of 9% in spray products and 10% in other formulations. However, its extensive and prolonged use, paired with its environmental persistence, has raised concerns about its potential impact on ecosystems and aquatic life and, consequently, humans through processes like bioconcentration and biomagnification.

In fact, OCR has been detected in water bodies and bioma, albeit with concentrations varying considerably between sites. These variations depend on the extent of recreational activities (e.g., washing off from bathers, swimmers, or divers) and wastewater discharges. A study conducted in 2013 confirmed the presence of OCR in the range of 89−782 ng·g−1 lipid weight in liver tissue samples taken from dead Franciscana dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei) individuals, collected on Brazilian’s coasts. These findings represent the first data reported on the occurrence of UV filters in marine mammals worldwide. OCR concentrations in seawater were reported by various investigations, reaching up to 420 ng/L. In Swiss rivers, OCR was also detected in fish, with concentration levels varying depending on the measurement period—levels in September (440–540 μg/kg lipid) were 3–5 times higher than in May (105–150 μg/kg lipid). Furthermore, mussels exhibited high levels of OCR (maximum concentrations: 967–7112 μg/kg d.w.), potentially due to their limited metabolic capacity.

However, OCR faces another issue: it has been investigated for endocrine-disruptor effects.

To reiterate: a chemical is considered as endocrine-disruptor when it interferes with the endocrine system in organisms, including humans and wildlife, thus altering in various ways the production, release, and transport of hormones.

In vitro analysis indicated that OCR was associated with anti-androgenic/androgenic activities; but it did not mimic progesterone on human sperm cells. Other follow-up in vitro tests confirmed an absence of effects on male fertility.

In vivo  OCR testing showed differences in reproductive parameters only at maternally-toxic dose levels, and no uterotrophic (estrogenic) and antiandrogenic effects were observed in rats up to 1000 mg/kg bw/day. One study indicated alterations in certain thyroid hormones, attributed to a compensatory effect. One key study identified a NOAEL of 153 mg/kg bw/day based on general and sexual development, providing some indications for potential endocrine effects. Nonetheless, the existing body of evidence is not sufficient to derive a toxicological point of departure based on endocrine disrupting properties for the purpose of human health risk assessment.

Tests on marine organisms have also yielded inconclusive results. No endocrine effects were observed in fish screening tests at concentrations up to the limit of water solubility. However, in a study conducted in Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes), OCR induced reproductive and estrogenic toxicity.

In summary, these data do not support a definitive conclusion, and more data is for sure needed to be able to correctly define Octocrylene’s criticality.

ANSES justifies the restriction request on the basis of environmental risks for non-target organisms in the aquatic compartment including sediment, and for potentially contaminated human drinking water.

Stakeholders have a one-year window to provide evidence for derogation to this measure, till October 2024.

We will continue to monitor for any forthcoming updates on the subject! In the mean time, if you require toxicological information, please feel free to reach out to us. We’re here to assist you! Contact us!

Article issued By Chiara Gazerro



Duis, K., Junker, T., & Coors, A. (2022). Review of the environmental fate and effects of two UV filter substances used in cosmetic products. Science of The Total Environment808, 151931.

Gago-Ferrero, Pablo; Alonso, Mariana B.; Bertozzi, Carolina P.; Marigo, Juliana; Barbosa, Lupércio; Cremer, Marta; Secchi, Eduardo R.; Azevedo, Alexandre; Lailson-Brito Jr., José; Torres, Joao P. M.; Malm, Olaf; Eljarrat, Ethel; Díaz-Cruz, M. Silvia; Barceló, Damià (2013). First Determination of UV Filters in Marine Mammals. Octocrylene Levels in Franciscana Dolphins. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(11), 5619–5625. doi:10.1021/es400675y. 

Pawlowski, S., Lanzinger, A. C., Dolich, T., Füßl, S., Salinas, E. R., Zok, S., … & Petersen-Thiery, M. (2019). Evaluation of the bioaccumulation of octocrylene after dietary and aqueous exposure. Science of the Total Environment672, 669-679.

SCCS Opinion on Octocrylene, available online: https://health.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2022-08/sccs_o_249.pdf

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